BOLINGBROKE -- Gun control, health care and even trash on Georgias roads were among the topics that more than 30 Middle Georgians asked their state lawmakers at the Bolingbroke fire station Tuesday night.
State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, held the last of a series of town hall-style meetings, which he conducted with state Reps. Allen Peake, R-Macon, and Robert Dickey, R-Musella, to find out what is on the minds of local residents with this years General Assembly set to begin Monday.
Im very pleased with the turnout, Staton said after the meeting. Its encouraging to me that people care about their government.
The legislators said the No. 1 priority for state lawmakers is to balance the budget while the economy continues to struggle.
We do have challenges, Peake told the audience. Were significantly different than the federal government. We have to balance our budget, I know how important it is that money stays in an individuals pocket or a business pocket.
Dickey said pretty much every issue I can think of will be brought up during the session.
Staton said there are still questions about what impact the fiscal cliff crisis at the end of 2012 will mean to states.
A lot of our budget is dependent on Washington, and there are a lot of things that can impact the budget, he said.
He said lawmakers are predicting a shortfall in Medicaid because Gov. Nathan Deal elected not to accept the handcuffs of Obamacare, which Staton said would have meant about $1.4 billion in additional costs to Georgia taxpayers, but also would have meant adding roughly 650,000 more to the Medicaid rolls.
Many in the crowd said they were concerned that state lawmakers might add restrictions to gun ownership in the state in the wake of last months Newtown, Conn., shootings. However, all three lawmakers said they were steadfast in not making changes to Georgias gun laws.
Staton said he would resist a knee-jerk reaction from his colleagues on the left, and that he doesnt think any changes will be made this session. Dickey added that any changes made would violate the Second Amendment.
All three said they would support a proposed bill from State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, that would allow local school systems to decide if principals could carry a concealed weapon.
On the local level, Peake said he thinks a deal is very close so that elections will be nonpartisan once Macon and Bibb County merge. Peake noted that Macon was the only city in Georgia that still has local partisan elections, and that none of the three biggest consolidated governments in the state -- Columbus, Athens or Augusta -- have them.
Other topics included Georgias roads, especially proposed roundabouts that havent been built, and trash along the highways. The legislators noted that many of the roads issues would be more difficult to address since voters in most regions failed to approve the proposed T-SPLOST last summer.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.